My name is Danny Whitby. I’m 39 years old. I’m a musician and conductor in the West End.
I started running in July 2011 when I was working on The Wizard of Oz at The London Palladium. I was putting on weight and wasn’t so happy about it, I wanted to exercise but was worried of having to join a gym, do any team sport or take my clothes off to go swimming! So, it seemed that running was the obvious choice.
I bought a cheap pair of trainers, pulled out an old T-shirt and pair of shorts and armed with a 6 week 0-5km plan, on 27th July 2012, I headed out to Peckham Rye Park.
I was convinced that people would point and laugh at me. They didn’t. Instead, I felt a huge joy because I was out doing it and was having a great time.
I finished the 6 week plan. I lost some weight and I felt much better too.
The rest is history I guess. It’s simple. I became [a little] addicted to running. My distances got longer: I progressed to my first half marathon in February 2013 and to my first marathon, in London, in April 2013.
I met Morag Siller in December 2004. I was working at The Palace Theatre in Manchester for 6 weeks and, through a mutual friend, was put in touch with Morag and Tim because I needed somewhere to stay. They were so welcoming, and I remember endless evenings of wine, Celebrity Big Brother and more wine. I had a wonderful time staying with them, and over the next few years Morag became a dear friend to me. She was a beautiful woman. An incredibly talented actress, very funny and so caring to everyone who knew her.
Morag passed away in April this year. She was 46 years old.
Until then I’d never been to the funeral of a close friend. It was a hard day. Travelling home on the train I felt I needed to do something. Something in memory of, and to celebrate Morag’s life. I thought back over our friendship and remembered how often Morag would tell me how proud she was that I’d stuck with the running. So, it seemed apt that I lace up my trainers for her.
So, I’m running 4 marathons in 8 months to raise money for Prevent Breast Cancer. That’s about 2000 training miles to get me through the 104.8 miles of the Oslo, Pisa, London and Edinburgh marathons.
I’m using a training plan that I used for a marathon last year: Asics 3 hour 30 plan. I don’t stand much of a chance of getting anywhere near that time, but I like to push myself in the training in the hope it will make the marathon easier for me (well that’s what I tell myself!).
I run 4/5 times a week with that plan: an interval session (4-6 miles), a mid length run (5-10 miles), tempo run (6-8 miles), hill session (3-6 miles), then the long run at the weekend (12-22 miles)
It’s sometimes tough fitting the training in around walking the dogs, working and a little socialising. I’m currently Associate Musical Director on Disney’s Aladdin which is at The Prince Edward Theatre in the West End. I either run in the morning or into work in the afternoon ready for rehearsals or matinees.
The support of family, friends, the Aladdin company and colleagues of other shows I’ve worked on has been wonderful. Getting a “You’ve been sponsored” text at the end of a run, along with messages of support, are so fantastic and I wouldn’t have been able to get through some of these long days without them.
I won’t lie: I find it tough at times. Long runs, sometimes in the hot summer sun (and still to come, the cold winter rain), getting out of bed to run 16 miles before doing 2 shows, running up and down a hill 10 times. You get the picture. It’s not easy when you’re more accustomed to sitting behind a piano.
But then I remember why I’m doing it, and I manage to get the trainers laced up again. I’m not sure if Morag is looking on smiling or laughing at me for doing such a ridiculous thing. But whichever it is, I know she’s with me every step of the way. Hopefully with a glass of wine in hand too.